State visit from Singapore
On our state visit to Singapore in 2004, the Queen and I had the pleasure of meeting the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Lee told us that he found Norwegians to be a sturdy and hardworking people. I would like to return the compliment tonight – to you and the people of Singapore. You are indeed determined and devoted.
Our nations have both managed to turn difficult conditions into advantages:
Singapore started out with little else than its people and a vision of what you could become. Fifty years on, you have built a nation that is leading the way in trade, technology and talent.
Norwegians have had to face long, dark winters and unforgiving seas. Nevertheless, we learnt to master these conditions. We became a major shipping nation, and later a leader in offshore oil and gas.
There is a certain resilience, determination and an ability to work hard that the people in our two nations recognise in each other.
Singapore’s economic achievements have been widely praised. The Queen and I have seen this development with our own eyes. Another accomplishment - less talked about - is the multi-racial society you have built. You have created a resilient nation that sets an example for many to follow.
Countries like ours rely on an international order that allows all nations – big and small – to prosper. Norway and Singapore are engaged in maintaining international order, in the UN, in ASEAN and elsewhere. Singapore’s support for Norway’s partnership with ASEAN has been invaluable.
Some of our strength comes from flexibility, some from our ability to stand firm. At times, we may feel like David in a world of Goliaths. Then it is good to know that we are not alone. I commend Singapore for being a principled advocate for the rule of law, and for your contribution to stability in Asia.
We are both seafaring nations— with common strong interests in developing our ocean industries. Two hundred years ago, it was sailing ships – today it is subsea installations and the ships of tomorrow. We see the oceans as an important part of our common future. As leading maritime nations, I welcome that we will reinforce our maritime partnership during this visit.
For both our nations, the way forward is knowledge. Together, we can make developments in life sciences, in energy and in maritime research. Our ambition should be to advance science in the areas that are truly important for us.
President Tan, wherever you go in this country, you will soon come across someone with fond memories from Singapore. Thousands of Norwegians have called Singapore their home, and many more have visited. In the past, they were sailors. Today, they are business people, students and academics. I will thank Singapore for receiving us so kindly, and for letting so many of my countrymen experience the rich culture that Singapore and South-East Asia have to offer.
Some say that you talk about food as often as we talk about the weather. Probably because the variation in both is endless. Your cuisine is famous. Even your hawker food is in the Michelin Guide. I hope we can satisfy your tastes tonight!
I have mentioned your ability to work hard and to be steadfast. It must have been this “kiasu” that propelled Joseph Schooling to his Olympic gold in Rio, up against no one less than Michael Phelps. Indeed, sometimes David can offer Goliath a real challenge.
The ties between us go back a long way. Still, I believe our most important accomplishments lie before us. Norway and Singapore are truly partnering for the future.
I would like to conclude by inviting you all to join me in a toast to the good health and happiness of His Excellency President Tan and Mrs Tan, to the people of Singapore, and to the friendship between our nations.